Business

At Miami meeting, U.S. Small Business Administration leader says focus is on ‘more outreach’

MAKING THE ROUNDS: Small Business Administration Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet visits Miami as part of her tour in South Florida to highlight the importance of small businesses focused on education and technology.
MAKING THE ROUNDS: Small Business Administration Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet visits Miami as part of her tour in South Florida to highlight the importance of small businesses focused on education and technology. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

U.S. Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet is on a mission to make the organization’s programs more user-friendly and responsive through the use of new technology and outreach efforts.

That crusade brought her to South Florida on Tuesday afternoon, where she met with about two dozen leaders of local community organizations, including minority-oriented groups, to explore how to work more closely together. The roundtable discussion was held at Venture Hive, a business accelerator and incubator near downtown Miami that was one of 50 winners of a nationwide Growth Accelerator Fund competition, sponsored by the SBA.

“What we are doing is more outreach, to make sure our underserved communities know what we are doing and how we are doing it,” Contreras-Sweet said.

The SBA provides access to capital, contracts and counseling. The government organization does not actually loan money to businesses; rather, it provides guarantees on bank-funded SBA loans.

Contreras-Sweet knows how hard it can be to get an SBA-guaranteed loan from a bank. When she started a bank in California, she said that when a client would ask for an SBA-guaranteed loan, she would have a “long face.”

“I knew it was going to be a very arduous process,” she said. So on July1, she started a new program that provides a business owner seeking a loan of under $300,000 with a “predictive score,” to speed up their ability to learn if they will qualify.

Still other initiatives to be rolled out in mid-2015 will shorten application processes, so that those seeking loans won’t have to provide unnecessary documentation.

As she tries to reach her goal of simplifying procedures and adding more technology, Contreras-Sweet said she has renamed the SBA’s acronym to reflect the change. So, rather than signifying Small Business Administration, she has given it a new moniker: “Smart, bold and accessible.”

— INA PAIVA CORDLE

Maria Contreras-Sweet

Position: Administrator of the Small Business Administration

Hometown: Los Angeles; resides in the Washington, D.C., area.

Born: In Guadalajara, Mexico; age 58

Education: Attended California State University, Los Angeles.

Career: Owned companies including Fortius Holdings, a private equity and venture fund, and Promerica Bank, a lender serving small businesses in Los Angeles. Corporate executive at Westinghouse's 7-Up / RC Bottling Co. Served as secretary of California's Business, Transportation and Housing Agency.

Personal: Husband Ray, three children.

Twitter handle: @MCS4Biz.

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